Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Obamacare 101 - What You Need To Know

The subject of health care is probably one of the most complex, confusing and frustrating subjects out there.  I swear, it gives me a headache. *massages temples*  But, it's soooo important.  And Obamacare?  Extremely important.  I know folks with high IQ's, health care backgrounds, law degrees and a partridge in a pear tree who don't fully 'get' it. Here are the basics about America's new health care plan (Hope it helps!): 

 The Facts - Real Quick
  • There are 48 million Americans who don't have health insurance according to the Census Bureau.

  • More than 9 million children lack health insurance in America.

  • The United States is the only industrialized country in the world without a universal health insurance system.

  • Half of all bankruptcies are caused by medical bills.  Three-quarters of those filings are people with health insurance.

  • U.S. health care spending is approximately $2 trillion per year, or $6,697 per person. The United States continues to spend significantly more on health care than other countries in the world.
What Is Obamacare?
OK--In 2010, President Obama enacted a law called the Affordable Healthcare Act.  The purpose?  To "increase" the number of Americans covered by health insurance and "decrease" the cost of healthcare. 

With Obamacare, no one will be excluded from getting insurance, and everyone will have to get insurance.  If you already have insurance, chances are you can probably keep what you have.

It will vary with each plan. Some plans have higher deductibles and/or higher co-pays. Costs will vary based on where you live also.  The majority of uninsured people should be able to find a policy for $100 or less a month.  The Kaiser Family Foundation has put together a calculator that will give you an idea of what your bill will look like: http://kff.org/interactive/subsidy-calculator/ 

Important Dates
  • October 1, 2013 - Open enrollment for health insurance begins (ends on March 31, 2014). You don't have to sign up that first day. (Don't wait until the last minute though!)
  • Enroll by December 14, 2013 if want your coverage to start by January 1, 2014.
  • January 1, 2014 - All legal residents and U.S. citizens must have qualifying health coverage.
  • Oct. 15 - Dec. 7, 2014 - The next open enrollment period begins.         
Getting Started
Go to www.healthcare.gov to get information and sign up for the program.  (If you don't have access to the Internet, go to your local library - they have computers there.) 

The government has set up call centers to help people with open enrollment.  You can call 1-800-318-2596 for assistance.  You can also enroll by mail. 

Penalties For Not Signing Up
If you don't sign up to get health insurance, you'll have to list that on your 2014 tax return.  The fee for the first year is $95 per adult and $47.50 per child (up to $285 per family), or 1% of your income, whichever is higher. 

The penalty is higher in 2015 ($325 per adult/$162.50 per child), or 2% of your income. 

Some people will be exempt from signing up for health insurance.  For example, people who make so little that they don't file tax returns will be exempt.  

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